“Water taps stopped producing water almost a month ago,” says New Lands community leader Myolisi Magibisela. Hundreds of residents are struggling to get water as standpipes ran dry in New Lands and Ark in Enkanini Informal Settlement, Khayelitsha.
“For almost four weeks, we have been fetching water from Makhaza,” says Magibisela.
Magibisela said he reported the problem to sub-council officials and the city of Cape Town. “When I phoned the water and sanitation department about the absence of water, an official told me that we don’t get water because the main pipe is damaged.”
Councillor Xanthea Limberg, the city’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services replied by email: “The city is aware of the residents’ concerns and every effort is being made to remedy the water supply to this area. The situation is being monitored closely.”
Limberg ignored GroundUp’s questions as to what had caused the water problem. She also did not answer any questions as to what could be done about the sanitation situation as a result of the water problem.
“We have no water to flush … so our toilets are blocked and smelly,” says Magibisela. “Hundreds of residents use the bushy field as their toilet. Excrement is everywhere and you struggle to find space to squat.”
Magibisela says, “I feel humiliated when I cross Baden Powell Drive to the bushes while residents are watching me.”
“Kids duck speeding cars as they cross the road to defecate in the bushes,” says New Lands resident Nosikhokele Menyelwa.
She says the lack of water affects every aspect of the residents’ lives. She now hires youngsters to fetch water for her. “The walk to Makhaza tires me, so I ask youths to load my water containers on a trolley and bring me water.” They charge her R5 per container.
“We relieve ourselves in these blocked toilets at night because we are scared of thugs and snakes in the bushes,” says Menyelwa.
Ntebu Qhina, a janitor from Ark, says that without water “we simply sweep the toilets and leave”. She says, “We don’t hand toilet keys to passersby or visitors [anymore] because they don’t come with water to flush the loos after relieving themselves.”
Wendy Mzinyathi, who runs Lukhanyiso Educare in Ark, which has 65 children aged between eight months and five years, says, “I haven’t seen water come out of nearby taps for the last seven days.”
She has asked parents to send their kids with 1.5 litres of water every day. Mzinyathi says some parents make a special effort and bring 25 litres of water. “The kids use the water to drink, wash hands and flush the loo.”
This article by Vincent Lali was published by GroundUp